The unexpected losses suffered by Vietnam's under-23 football team at the recently concluded SEA Games in Indonesia have not just infuriated passionate fans, but attracted accusations of match-fixing.
Tran Song Hai, temporary vice chairman of the Vietnamese Football Fans Association, fumed: "One player displayed great performances at the under-21 tournament in Vietnam, but played very badly at the SEA Games in Indonesia.
"He always positioned himself badly and once he was just five meters from the goal but his shot went wide. Those were deliberate acts, not bad ability. We Vietnamese fans are very ashamed."
Hai said he visited the team before the semifinal match against Indonesia and was worried what he felt was a lack of solidarity in the team, with each player looking in a different direction.
Hai said, "Dinh Phu told me the defenders would do their best to prevent bad things from happening, but he then added, "˜we can do nothing if the strikers don't want to score.' I think he was implying something."
Hai also complained about the coaching staff's management of the players. He said a police officer who was sent to Indonesia to be with the football team has said he felt he could do nothing because the players were allowed to use their mobile phones and the Internet to their heart's content.
Hai said the players were even allowed to talk to their relatives, friends and even strangers without any restrictions. Hai said, "Such lax management can make it easy for match-fixing. Hai wondered if it was true that the officer was sent so that the Vietnam Football Federation (VFF) could absolve itself of all its responsibilities.
"VFF general secretary Tran Quoc Tuan was the head of the Vietnamese U23 football team in Indonesia but he didn't play his role very well. He was not a good link between the coaching staff, the players and the public."
The performance of the team on the field also had fans and pundits doubting their honesty.
Striker Van Quyet, for instance, was the best young player for Vietnam in the 2010 season, but in Indonesia, he made many terrible mistakes that were "unacceptable," several commentators said.
Midfielder Trong Hoang also raised a lot of suspicions. In Vietnam's final group stage match against Laos on November 17, Vietnam was offered a penalty kick while leading 2-1, and Hoang rushed to take the ball and place it on the penalty spot, and his shot went wide. This was a very strange act by a player whose team was leading.
Also in the game against Laos, central fullback Long Giang tackled Lamnao Singto from behind and was sent off with a red card just 16 minutes into the game.
Giang knew Vietnam had already qualified for the semifinals and it was not necessary to tackle a player from the other team. He also knew how important he would have been for Vietnam in the semifinals. His action made many fans and commentators think he wanted to leave the pitch early in the first half.
In the third-place play-off match against Myanmar, goalkeeper Tuan Manh blamed Giang for interfering with Huynh Phu, making it impossible for him to save a free kick.
And in the match against Laos, TV images showed many Vietnamese players did not celebrate after Van Thang scored Vietnam's third goal of the match. In fact, they looked a bit surprised, commentators noted.
Thanh Nien asked VFF chairman Nguyen Trong Hy if the federation has asked the police to conduct investigations into allegations Vietnamese players were involved in match-fixing at the SEA Games.
Hy said the press should ask Ho Sy Tien, the director of the crime-investigation police in charge of social order (C45), because the department did send an officer to Indonesia to be with the football team.
Hai of the football fan association also strongly critized the performance of coach Falko Goetz.